“Tap dancing on the Arctic Ocean”

  1. Morton’s Lady Potters 56, Galesburg 33

    Beginning his search for the next 500 victories of his career, Bob Becker called out to the far end of the court.

    “GIVE IT TO KATIE!”

    The Lady Potters’ ball-handlers seemed not to have seen Katie Krupa working hard to make herself visible.

    “GIVE IT TO KATIE!”

    The coach raised the decibel level a notch when his ball-handlers, for reasons known only to themselves, seemed content with moving the rock around the edges of the Galesburg defense.

    And then Becker, in his 21st season as the Potters’ coach, must have felt all the frustration and exasperation of a rookie who knew what he wanted done and didn’t know how to get it done – because now people in the top row on the other side of the Potterdome heard him shout . . . .

    ‘GIVE IT TO HER!!!!!”

    Someone did. Krupa took the ball in the paint. Curled in a layup.

    Curious basketball fans may wonder when this drama took place. How big a deal was it that someone, anyone, pretty please, give the ball to Krupa?

    Not a big deal, really.

    The game had just started.

    One minute and 35 seconds in, Bob Becker was begging for someone, anyone, pretty please make an entry pass to the post. Krupa’s bucket made the score Morton 6, Galesburg 2.

    But the layman’s “not a big deal, really” can be a coach’s really big deal because the coach isn’t thinking about this minute or this game or this week. The coach is playing a long game. It’s January and it’s cold outside, but the coach isn’t thinking about how cold it’s suddenly become. He’s thinking about February. He’s not playing a short little game on a January night. He’s playing a long game that will get his team into big games in February and, he hopes, bigger games the first weekend in March.

    So . . .

    The coach wants the ball moved into the paint, moved to the likes of Katie Krupa, because in February and March it’s always good to have a big post shooting layups. By the first quarter’s end tonight, Krupa had turned entry passes into three layups, the last a dandy on a move across the paint to score with her left hand. She finished with 15 points, a dozen coming at the rim, the stuff of big-game winners.

    All that said, and it’s all true, it was only part of Krupa’s good work tonight. Yes, the undefeated No. 1-ranked Potters were always going to win their 22d game no matter how well Galesburg played (13-8 coming in). Still, the game was competitive until late in the second quarter.

    With 3:51 to play in the half, Morton led 22-13. It then went on a 13-3 run for a 35-16 halftime lead. In that run, Krupa scored once and twice made slick passes that led to field goals. The lead grew to 44-19 in the first four minutes of the third quarter – a Morton habit, those third quarter runs – and the run was kick-started by two Krupa layups created on threading-the-needle passes from Peyton Dearing and Courtney Jones.

    Turn out the lights, party’s over.

    A note: Becker has now won 501 games. His opposite number this night, Galesburg’s Evan Massey, in his 42nd season, has won 926 games. Do not hold your breath, folks, until we next see a game matching Illinois Hall of Fame coaches with 1,427 victories between them.

    Another note: Lindsey Dullard, Morton’s leading scorer, did not play, still dealing with concussion symptoms. She did, however, casually shoot free throws in the team’s shoot-around this morning. “Made a couple,” she said. Until her symptoms clear up, she will not be re-evaluated for a return to action. “I’m better,” she said, “but still some headaches.”

    A third note: Kindly folks have advised me that I’m wrong about the effects of passing a kidney stone. In my report on the Peyton Dearing recovery after one day’s soul-searing pain, I suggested that even a man of my great courage and immense strength would need a month to recuperate and then only under the tender mercies of sweet-hearted nurses waving garenias under my nose. But three friends have insisted that once the stone passes, everything’s fine. “I could have tap-danced across the Arctic Ocean,” Potters assistant coach Bill Davis said, or maybe he said he could have moon-walked across the Illinois River, I’m not sure. I had quit listening at “I could have tap-danced . . .” (Davis as Fred Astaire? I don’t think so.)

    Anyway, I’ll take their word for it. I don’t want to ever find out. Even typing “kidney stones” makes me want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head – which I’ll do as soon as I finish three beers.

    Krupa led Morton with 15 points. Jones had 10, Dearing 9, Olivia Remmert 6, Maggie Hobson 5, Maddy Becker 5, Cailyn Cowley 4, and Makenna Baughman 2.


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